What Does Hedge Your Bets Mean?

Hedge Your Bets Meaning

Definition: Choose or support more than one option at a time in an effort to reduce the chance of losing.

Origin of Hedge Your Bets

The word hedge means to avoid making a definitive commitment. It comes from the noun hedge, which means a fence made of shrubbery. The hedge that forms a fence offers protection and security, much like hedging a bet.

Hedge your bets first appeared in the late-1600s. The first use was by George Villiers, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, in his play The Rehearsal (1672):

  • Now, Criticks, do your worst, that here are met; For, like a Rook, I have hedg’d in my Bet.

Before the coinage of hedge your bets, hedge was used in conjunction with other words to form phrases. But, the late-1600s was the first time it was used as hedge a bet.

Examples of Hedge Your Bets

hedging your bets In the following example, a new mother is discussing childcare with her friend.

Kerry: So, did you decide which daycare to use for your child?

Christine: I decided to use one in the next town away from where I live. My city didn’t have any good ones.

Kerry: Which one did you choose?

Christine: Well, I wanted to hedge my bets, so I picked the top 10 daycares. I’m going to apply to all of them. Hopefully she’ll get into at least one.

Kerry: Wow! Didn’t it take a long time to fill out all that paperwork?

Christine: Yes, it took an extremely long time, but it’s worth it to increase the chances of finding the best place.

hedge your bets meaningIn this dialogue, two friends are eating at a restaurant.

Arlena: What do you plan on ordering to eat?

Nyima: I’m going to order the chicken vindaloo and the palak paneer.

Arlena: You’re ordering two entrees? Are you really hungry?

Nyima: No, not at all. But I’m not sure if I’ll like them, so I thought I’d hedge my bets by ordering two things. If I don’t like one of them, I’ll eat the other one. I’ll give the extra to my husband. He likes everything.

More Examples

This excerpt is from an advice column. The columnist advises a man to choose someone he really feels passionate about, not someone he feels like he is settling for.

  • Make a decision about your long-term relationship. Don’t hedge your bets; be a grown-up and make a choice. –Denver Post

This excerpt is from an article about how to get into a good school. The author advises not choosing only the most competitive schools. Those are very hard to get into, and will likely not work out. Rather, pick a range of possible schools.

  • Hedge your bets by finding other suitable schools. Consider special honors programs within big schools — oases of excellence that give kids a greater sense of belonging. Each selective program requires a separate listing on the high-school application. –New York Post

Summary

The phrase hedge your bets means to reduce the risk of making the wrong choice by choosing multiple options.

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